Bernice Ash Honored with Memorial Award

Elizabeth Dale

Industry leaders Fred and Dinah Gretsch, Jerry Ash and members of the Ash family, and The NAMM Foundation recently announced the creation of the Bernice Ash Memorial Award. The award honors the life and legacy of music retail visionary Bernice Ash, who was widely recognized as one of the company’s print music department pioneers. Bernice designed procedures that resulted in excellent working relationships with music publishers, expanding distribution to music teachers, students, and satisfied customers.

Bernice Ash (Kibrick) had been working at Sam Ash Music for a year when, in 1948, she married Jerry Ash. Bernice and Jerry were determined to keep the retail store in the Ash family, and as a result, Bernice later stepped away from the store to raise their children, David, Richard, and Sammy. When their youngest, Sammy, started school, Bernice returned to the store and pioneered the development of the sheet music department, including purchasing and inventory. As the head of sheet music for all Sam Ash locations, Bernice designed methods and procedures that not only turned the department into a highly successful operation but also cultivated amazing working relationships with publishers and a score of satisfied customers. Larry Morton, CEO of Hal Leonard, reflected on Bernice’s legacy, stating, “She had the instincts of a natural-born music publisher and was driven by wanting to have beautiful sheet music available for anyone to play, no matter their level. More than that, however, she treated every one of us as a family and gave of her time and love generously.”

Bernice Ash

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Bernice passed away on December 1, 2020 at the age of 90, leaving a loving family, staff, and grateful industry determined to carry on her legacy. The award initiative was led by Fred and Dinah Gretsch, who offered a generous donation of $50,000 to start the fund. This amount was matched by Jerry Ash and the Ash family, Larry Morton of Hal Leonard, and other industry supporters.

Fred Gretsch, who alongside Dinah have a combined 98 years of music business experience, said, “Bernice and Jerry Ash have that number beaten by a mile. What terrific mentors they are to the Gretsch family and to the music industry as a whole.” Jerry Ash responded to the Gretsch’s donation, which was announced on Believe TV during NAMM’s Believe in Music week, saying, “This is so wonderful, so wonderful! To Fred and Dinah, what you have done, touches my heart so deeply. My family and the Gretsch family have a long-long history together.” Jerry’s son and COO of Sam Ash Music, Sammy Ash, also shared his gratitude saying, “From the Ash family to the Gretsch family and the whole industry in general, we thank you so much for this initiative; we will not let you down. My mom is probably looking down on us with a huge smile.”

Annual scholarship winner(s) will be recognized with a one-time, $5,000 grant for use in continued college-level or trade-related studies, as well as a travel stipend to attend The NAMM Show and a one-year mentorship with the NAMM Young Professionals (NAMMYP) group. To be considered, scholarship applicants must be current employees of a NAMM Member company, nominated by that company's owner or manager, identified as an up-and-coming industry leader seeking further professional development to enhance their career and service to the industry. The application will open on June 15 and will close on September 30, 2021.

For more information and to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit